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What’s going on with BMT Northwest at Satsop Business Park?

BMT Northwest is current with its rent at the Satsop Business Park and plans an auction, but company officials haven’t been very forthcoming with the Port of Grays Harbor as to their next steps and whether they plan to keep paying their rent next year.

BMT Northwest, a subsidiary of Brown-Minneapolis Tank Co., informed its employees in late September that it would be laying off its crew of 47 by the end of October. However, as of mid-December, some employees remained on site. And the company is preparing for at least one last shipment by the beginning of next year, according to Port Executive Director Gary Nelson.

Since notifying the Port, employees and customers that BMT Northwest would be closing its doors in September, there’s been very little communication from the company. Port attorney Art Blauvelt confirms that no letters have been sent from the company and there’s not been very many conversations via telephone either.

Blauvelt wrote a letter to Brown-Minneapolis Tank Co. on Oct. 15 after Satsop Business Park Manager Alissa Shay was having difficulty getting anyone to give her a straight answer as to the company’s future with one manager telling her to talk to another and finger pointing going all around.

“The Port is not interested in chasing the right person,” Blauvelt wrote. “The lease requires communication at the above addresses and we are conforming to the terms of the lease.”

Although rent is current, Blauvelt’s letter indicates that the Port has been unsure how long that would last, noting the “response was vague, at best.”

There’s also been talk for several months about some kind of auction of the company’s assets. At one point it was going to be conducted in November, but that time has obviously come and gone.

“The Port of Grays Harbor does need to know when this auction will take place and what you intend to sell,” Blauvelt wrote to the company. “As you know, the Port has an ownership interest in numerous pieces of equipment that are in your facility.”

There’s some concern that BMT Northwest may try to sell assets that belong to the port. Blauvelt told the company that “any attempts to sell those items will be unsuccessful.”

“It is requested that you send a listing of the equipment that you intend to sell and the proposed date of the auction to me, well before the auction occurs,” Blauvelt wrote. “In addition, since the lease requires that your company continuously operate the business, please explain how the business will operate without the auctioned equipment.”

BMT Northwest has never responded to Blauvelt’s multiple letters, a public records request with the Port shows.

Besides the Port laying claim to equipment it owns in BMT Northwest’s building, a claim of lien was filed on Sept. 17 by Metro Overhead Door in the amount of $52,560 for construction costs done in July that the company has never paid, according to records provided by the Port.

The Port’s budget for next year does include about $300,000 that BMT Northwest is supposed to be paying in rent, docking fees and other charges.

The company is located in the former nuclear plant’s reconfigured turbine building, which was originally designed to house steam turbine generators for the twin nuclear plants that were never finished. The company took over the facility in 2009, and after a year-and-a-half conversion process, has been manufacturing and shipping behemoth industrial steel storage tanks for various uses around the globe. The company can manufacture and ship tanks weighing up to 1 million tons out of its 360,000- square-foot plant.

There’s been a lot of state and county money put into getting BMT Northwest into the old turbine building.

In 2008, the county commissioners approved spending $250,000 to help refurbish the building. That was on top of $5.053 million in state grant funds. Then, in 2009, the county chipped in another $150,000 and the old Public Development Authority spent an extra $300,000 to retrofit a barge slip near the Satsop site. The slip, 60 feet wide and 300 feet long, was renovated to remove sediments and make it deeper, specifically so BMT Northwest could use it to send giant steel tanks down the river. The tanks were too wide to travel on regular roads and some are too high to make it safely under overpasses.

The company was originally located at the Port of Olympia, but was squeezed out and was looking for new locations before finding the Satsop Business Park. There was even a brief tiff between the county and the Public Development Authority over building code interpretations of the old nuclear facility, where the county commissioners had to get involved.

There were promises of dozens of more jobs to be added at the facility over the years. In 2008, company officials said they were prepared to bring in 53 “family wage” jobs from Olympia and hire an additional 39 jobs. But the company’s had been pretty steady at 47 to 50 jobs for the past few years.

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